France, US step up pressure on Syria

9th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 9 (AFP) - With their stated desire to put aside differences and work together - as illustrated by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Paris this week - France and the United States are increasing the pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

PARIS, Feb 9 (AFP) - With their stated desire to put aside differences and work together - as illustrated by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Paris this week - France and the United States are increasing the pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

With a ceasefire by the Israelis and Palestinians now on the table, Paris and Washington are renewing their joint effort on the UN Security Council to have Syria pull out its 14,000 soldiers and curtail its influence on its neighbour.

Rice raised the issue with French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to Paris Tuesday, pushing Washington's view that Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Chirac, who has long been building ties with Lebanese leaders, responded by stressing that legislative elections due in Lebanon in the next few months should be free and transparent.

The two agreed that a UN resolution put forward by both their countries last September calling for a withdrawal of foreign troops, an end to meddling in Lebanese domestic politics and a return to full sovereignty should be observed.

The United States, which, since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has a vision of actively reshaping Middle East politics, imposed economic sanctions on Syria in May 2004.

Rice, talking of a "new chapter" in Europe-US relations, on Tuesday urged France and other EU countries to back US goals of reforming the Arab world.

Implicit in that was diplomatic action against Syria, which Washington accuses of supporting the Iraqi insurgency against US troops.

In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rice emphasised "the need for all of us - in America, in Europe, in the region - to make clear to Iran and Syria that they must stop supporting the terrorists who would seek to destroy the peace that we seek."

She added that her government viewed the United Nations as "incredibly important in providing the resolution that now allows us to bring attention to what is happening in Lebanon in terms of Syria."

Chirac, too, has placed the Lebanon-Syria issue high up his list of priorities.

On Saturday, he is to receive Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN special envoy who is writing a report on compliance with the resolution against Syria.

Damascus has says it is only prepared to comply with the resolution if arch-enemy Israel abides by two earlier UN resolutions requiring it to evacuate Arab land conquered in 1967.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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